Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Growth Illusion; Video Games

The prevalent emphasis on "growth" serves to promote the kind of thinking that says that more and more economic activity is always needed, where by "economic activity" we mean: more goods and services. This encapsulates the basic concept, and now I would like to make my commentary, on this concept.
     There is no inherent need for economic growth per se, no inherent human need for growth in the current sense in which the term is used in economics discussion. And here arises one natural question: if we don't need it, why do we (or: "they") want it? I dunno.
     There is no inherent need for it. What do I actually mean by saying that? That means that there exists no inherent need for persons to relate to one another only by attempting to find more and alternative ways of doing a very particular  thing: trading money with one another such that these trades will create more money. That is what is meant by "economic growth," in a nutshell, as far as I can see. But it is actually a rather narrow criterion. The essential message is that life is trade. And the implication is that it must always be that way. But that is a narrow message. There is no other kind of life? And, not only that, but this trade may only be trade that produces one narrowly defined form of profit, that of monetary valuation. A short way is to say that it must create what McKibben, in his "Deep Economy," calls "more," or, in his way of writing, "MORE."

     What if they do it -- what if they create growth -- by expanding the functioning of video games to include trade, which is to say money trade as one plays? This is apparently what is happening today. They can set up the games so that the players actually engage in "economic" trade in the course of playing, such that these video or computer games include using money. Although this is my understanding of it, let's admit that those who do it know best how it all works; and, I am not necessarily criticizing those persons. I am saying that this seems to be just the kind of "growth" that prevalent thinking wants --- let's just use money as much as possible --- it really sounds stupid, when put that way. Is that all there is to it? I wonder...
     I don't know, but at any rate this video game on-line trade situation is an example, or I think it is, of the same take on the concept of "growth" ----- just as it is used in the thinking of businessmen, and also, I am sad to say, the actual intellectual practice of mainstream economics. This is why there is a crying need to fundamentally question this kind of academic practice. While on the subject, let's consider that one can also play video games without "growing" in this sense, which is to say, without "more." You can just play the game. Just play the freakin' game and don't worry about it. You don't need to enter this novel or new stage of "growth," this money/exchange procedure being added on. But if we call computer gaming for money "growth" (of new brain cells, I suppose!) then some may say that playing the normal way would not be "economic"! But that cannot be economics! This brings up the question of what we actually mean by economics, which is a valid concern.
     The "economic growth" that takes place in the virtual realm is a sort of brave new step or brave new world, if you will. As I said, you can certainly play computer/video games without tying this into monetary exchange. The monetary exchange is an add-on----a growth.
     What happens in these type of on-line games is that, as noted, use of money is included in the ongoing experience of play. The participants not only play; they "trade." OK. Why? They can win money. This is my understanding. So that is the reason obviously. Still I would like to ask, why? ...Well I assume that they feel would some kind of drive to compete, an internal need of a sort, to show their game-power and take pride in their game-power. Hence, there may be some kind of competitive urge or itch to obtain money from the game as a source of status---or else just to make money, since there is that, of course. In China, according to reports in one book I read, some persons do make a small living this way. This book I am referring to is written by a former economist who gained some notoriety for studying the comp-game-world. Then he changed his academic title or academic field and went on studying this kind of stuff. Computer gaming.
     All of these things happen in the course of playing the computer games they "love" so much. Is it growth? Is it economics? Is it real? Above, I said that this is not a necessary activity. It is not a core "human" activity. No, it's an obsession. The computer game serves as example of something very important.
     Computer gaming is merely the example. It gives us the example. And, what we can say about monetary computer game competition also goes for the absurd idea of economic growth. That, too, is an obsession. It is like the "love of farming" of the businessman farmer that Socrates has a dialouge with in the dialogues ----- recorded not by Plato but by the less well-known Socrates biographer. (Xenophon, I believe it is.) (http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/x/xenophon/x5oe/) This is discussed in Tkacek's review. It is published in the magazine book forum, last month. Thus, the emphasis on "growth" is as absurd as the need to put emphasis on on-line games (which, in turn, reveals the one genuine use for the games: they serve as an example such that the example sheds light on any problems linked to this concept of growth, or "economic growth").
     Persons have the right to experiment with the economy, or to do whatever they like, as long as they do not break the laws. I am not a computer gamer what do I know? We may agree or disagree; our approval or disapproval is secondary. I sincerely wish them luck with it. Try a different example. Persons can also cook at home, share with friends.
     If they did so could they also eliminate an entire industry, the restaurant industry? If eating at home or gifting food to others is just as nourishing, entertaining, and sociable (or emotionally fulfilling) as eating at a restaurant is, there is no way to assert reasonably that the activity with the "economic growth" is better than the other. So, this supports what I am saying here. The whole idea is hollow. Why is the endeavor that has economic growth better? Why is one better than the other?
     What we are doing?  We are substituting one value for another. (In the later case with food sharing it made no contribution to "growth," ain't that a bitch. In the former case, we do seem to have growth --- I think --- we substituted one thing -- computer play -- for another, but somehow increased or sustained the world of money and growth, like any economic bubble would. So, isn't growth totally hollow? But, OMG! It is the economists' favorite topic! Oooops. They'll be mad, and "Kramer" [Jim], the guy on T.V., will kill me! Maybe he'll be mad...)
     That act of mere substitution may be economics. (Is it? What about "resources"? What about "allocation" or "resources," what are "resources"?)
     But what ultimately is of value? Are our illusions of value or is life about something?

     "Growth" is not a genuine value. It has no reality. What is being valued here? We can't find it.

     I am not sure I can further clarify this, or if anyone can, or if that is even my job; it is just something people need to "think on," as the old Southerner would put it.

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